Most people think about bitcoin as an alternative to something they already know, as opposed to an enabler of something they never considered. In 1985, Steve Jobs was asked by a journalist for concrete reasons why anyone would buy a computer for the home. He answered that “so far, that’s more of a conceptual market than a real market”.
He went on to say that if you aren’t buying a PC to help you do business work at home, then you probably want one because “you know there’s something going on, you don’t exactly know what it is, so you want to learn”. But, he added, “this will change: computers will be essential in most homes”.
When the journalist pressed him to explain why, he predicted the Internet: “The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people – as remarkable as the telephone.”
Bitcoin is in the same place today. Many people are intrigued because they can feel “something is going on”. But they wonder how buying a sandwich with bitcoin is better than using, say, a credit card. As with many breakthroughs, most people think about bitcoin as an alternative to something they already know, as opposed to an enabler of something they never considered.
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Here are a few scenarios which may make bitcoin a major player in the top leagues:
Digital resources – like energy, bandwidth, storage and computation – will be allocated to the connected devices and services that need them through efficient, bitcoin-based marketplaces.
Load your smartphone with bitcoin, and it will automatically purchase access to the least expensive Wi-Fi hotspots as you roam Paris. And one day, your phone could pay for itself by selling connectivity back into a mesh network, similar to how solar panels can sell energy back to the power grid today.
Immersive virtual worlds accessed through devices like the Oculus Rift will have bitcoin-based economies, meaning there will be no bright dividing lines between where these virtual economies end and the real world economy begins.
People will walk virtual pets to earn money for a flesh-and-blood Chihuahua. Teens will become millionaires for projects they launch in virtual worlds (sneak preview: today’s YouTube stars and League of Legends players you’ve never heard of). As the size of these virtual world economies grow, currencies that don’t cross over easily, like Euros, will feel antiquated.
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Over the next few years, a lot of the underlying infrastructure and technologies to enable these killer apps will come online. As this happens, bitcoin will begin to expand markets and make them more efficient. Everyone – and every thing – with an Internet connection will be a market participant regardless of who they are or where they were born.
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